Communion Sunday, June 7 ~ “The Early Church: Breaking Bread”
Acts 2: 43 – 47; Matthew 13:33 – Jill A. Kirchner-Rose, MDIV, DMIN
We begin a new sermon series this month entitled, “The Early Church.” Last Sunday, we celebrated Pentecost, the birthday of the church. The Holy Spirit in the form of fire, wind, breath filled the frightened disciples, who were hiding in the Upper Room, and transformed them into the church bold and courageous. On Pentecost Day, the Holy Spirit brought together a most diverse group of people – people from all over the world, speaking different languages, but a strange thing happened – they understood one another. Tongues of fire fell on them and they were suddenly able to hear each other, they heard each other’s humanity, they heard each other’s pain, they listened to one another’s story and they became a new community of faith; they became the church.
This month I want us explore the attributes of that early church. We read in Acts 2, following the story of Pentecost, “Everyone around them was in awe. All who believed lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. They sold their possessions and pooled their resources so that each person’s need was met.” One of the first attributes of the early church, then, is a sense of mutality and affirming the Divine presence in one another. Then, we read, that they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God.
In just a few moments, we will go into my kitchen and bake bread. Then, we will break bread in our homes as now has become our tradition for the past three virtual Communion Sundays. First, though, let me say something about bread. Bread is a powerful symbol of social justice that Jesus uses frequently throughout the gospels. In the story of the loaves and fishes, Jesus multiplies the bread. There was such an abundance of food that everyone ate until they were full – and there were even twelve baskets of food left over. In other words, there are more than enough resources, more than enough food for all people. We celebrate God’s abundant care and solidarity revealed in that meal.
Jesus broke bread with those considered to be “the least of these,” with the marginalized, with the disenfranchised. Jesus broke bread with prostitutes and tax collectors and poor peasants – showing the radical inclusive love of the Divine, reminding us that all are welcome, all are worthy, all are invited.
Jesus gathered with his disciples for the Last Supper. The communion table itself is a symbol of social justice, liberation, of equality. Communion strips the privileged in our society of status and empowers the disenfranchised. Communion is a call to justice. It is a table of social non-distinction. Rich and poor, black and white, male and female, gay and straight gather side by side at the table. There at the table we rehearse our common humanity. Communion is not a private devotional prayer, rather it is a communal act of worship. At the table, we dismantle systems of oppression. At the table, we relinquish privilege on behalf of others. At the table, we amplify the voices of the oppressed. At this table, we love and serve one another. A love that ignores justice is not love at all. At this table, we renounce the longstanding systems of racial oppression that have pervaded this country for centuries. At this time in history, it is very important to state at the table that black lives matter because black lives are often treated as less than or that they don’t matter. All lives cannot matter until black lives matter.
Bread is a very powerful symbol of social justice that Jesus uses throughout his ministry. And I invite you now into my kitchen to bake bread and to hear a parable.
(In my kitchen)..Welcome to the Kitchen Kindom where Jesus shares a recipe for justice and love. Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman (probably a poor one, one of the oppressed) took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.” This is a small parable that contains explosive wisdom! It takes four ingredients to make bread: flour, salt, water, and yeast. The parable says that a woman took three measures of flour – three measures in the Bible is over 50 pounds – so for our purposes today we will just use 3 cups. We will add in 1.25 teaspoons of salt and .25 teaspoon of yeast. Mix all ingredients in a bowl with our hands. We then add 1 5/8 cup of warm water and mix some more with our hands. You kinda feel like a child again, playing with Play-Doh. We stretch saran wrap tightly over it. We let this rise for 12 hours. No, this will not be a 12 hour sermon. But I would like to say a few words about yeast.
(Video of bread rising) Yeast is a single-celled fungus. It enables the rise of the bread. Yeast, to put it simply, acts as an agent of change. Yeast permeates the dough from within. We cannot see it, but its effect is evident to all.
(Video of bread baking in the oven) Yeast transforms the bland flour of the world into the joyous bread of life. Likewise, the church, filled with and permeated by the Holy Spirit, is called to be an agent of change and rise up to the challenges of the day. We are called to rise up and be a prophetic, reconciling witness to a new kindom.
(In kitchen, smelling the bread) Aaahhh, the aroma of freshly baked bread! Rhymes with Orange sang, “There’s a sweet, sweet spirit in this place.” My prayer is that we, the church, the beloved community, filled with the Holy Spirit, will rise up to share the sweet, sweet aroma of justice, compassion, and love! Amen.